Derivazioni: Space for communication by TANAKA Sigeto
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This blog includes Tanaka Sigeto's daily updates and offers a space for discussion on sociological research and university education. Contents are in Japanese or English. Comments and trackbacks are welcome for each article. You can send a message to me as a comment to this entry (Check the "Secret" box below the comment form, if you want to make the message confidential). Otherwise, see the article "Activities elsewhere" for various ways to contact me.

It also carries announcement about Tanaka's classes. Follow the articles classified in the "School" category to see the announcements.

(2011-09-02 released.)

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Fake Information for the 'Egg Aging' Propaganda: The Role of Experts and Journalists in Its Emergence, Authorization, and Radicalization (XIX ISA World Congress of Sociology, July 2018, Toronto) (manuscript)

Date: 2018-07-17 (Tuesday) 17:30-19:20
Location: 709 (MTCC South Building), Metro Toronto Convention Center

Title: Fake information for the 'egg aging' propaganda: the role of experts and journalists in its emergence, authorization, and radicalization

Author: Tanaka Sigeto (Tohoku University)


The belief that women rapidly lose their fertility as they age has been popularized using biological findings about "aging" of eggs (or oocytes) in the ovaries. Recently, Japan has experienced national propaganda based on such a belief. In the past decade, doctors and medical organizations have broadcasted information about age-related fertility decline for women in their 20s and 30s. Their theory has spread on mass media without any scrutiny, creating a social pressure on women to bear children as early as possible. Such information has also served as evidence for the government's pronatalist policy of getting young people married.

This paper traces the history of the belief and explores how it emerged, progressed, and spread as authorized "scientific" knowledge by focusing on the graphs frequently used to support the "egg aging" discourse.

A literature survey revealed the following facts that exemplify the role of traditional experts and journalists in creating the "post-fact" phenomena. The graphs, seemingly quoted from the scientific literature, were actually fabricated, falsified, trimmed, or misinterpreted. Doctors manipulated graphs, supported it with unreachable citations, and provided insufficient or distorted explanations about the data and methods. These techniques are being used in the field of obstetrics and gynecology since the 1980s. Journalists have recently contributed to the propaganda, using sensational language to polish the message. During the development and radicalization of the discourse, no social mechanism was performing the fact-checking function. The "egg aging" propaganda, endorsed by medical authorities, aroused people's feeling about the alarming prospect of the country's low birthrate and shrinking population. It eventually achieved hegemony in public debates in 2010s Japan. (See for details.)

Keywords: pseudoscience, medicine, gender, reproductive rights, fertility

Conference: XIX ISA World Congress of Sociology (July 2018, Toronto)
Session Selection: Scientific Knowledge and Expertise in a 'Post-Fact' Era (RC23: Sociology of Science and Technology)
Status: Accepted for oral presentation

Created: 2017-09-20.
Revised: 2017-09-23.
Revised: 2017-11-30 on paper acceptance.
Revised: 2018-02-02 Date and location added.

Related articles

Hijacking the Policy-Making Process: Political Effects of the International Fertility Decision-Making Study for 2010s' Japan (XIX ISA World Congress of Sociology, July 2018, Toronto) (manuscript)

Date: 2018-07-16 (Monday) 15:30-17:20
Location: 202D (MTCC North Building), Metro Toronto Convention Center

Title: Hijacking the policy-making process: political effects of the International Fertility Decision-Making Study for 2010s' Japan

Author: Tanaka Sigeto (Tohoku University)


Studies that compare social conditions in a certain country with those of other nations can result in national feelings of inferiority or superiority. Comparative studies thus often serve as political devices. Owing to the development of the Internet and translation technology, large-scale, cross-national surveys have become a low-cost means to manipulate public opinion.

In this paper, I introduce the case of the political use of the International Fertility Decision-Making Study (IFDMS) in Japan. IFDMS was conducted in 2009-2010 by researchers from Cardiff University and Merck Serono, a global pharmaceutical company. IFDMS prepared a questionnaire in 13 languages for 18 countries, targeted at both men and women who were trying to conceive. It featured questions regarding medical knowledge about pregnancy. According to the published results, the respondents who lived in Japan exhibited a lower level of knowledge about conception than those in other countries. Based on this result, medical authorities in Japan insisted that, because of the lack of knowledge, the Japanese people had thoughtlessly postponed childbirth, resulting in fertility decline. The government accordingly created a new outline of population policy in 2015, in which it referred the results from IFDMS to advocate sex education for youth in order to encourage early marriage.

However, IFDMS is unreliable. It has many defects including mistranslations in the questionnaire. Nevertheless, results from IFDMS were accepted as reliable scientific findings in conferences and journals in the field of natural sciences in Europe, bypassing scrutiny by social science researchers in the targeted countries. Language differences also prevented the accurate understanding of the research results. The case of the political effect of IFDMS thus teaches us that social impacts of comparative studies may be deceptive and nullify social scientific efforts to accurately perceive the society in which we live. (See for details.)

Keywords: cross-national survey, translation, science communication

Conference: XIX ISA World Congress of Sociology (July 2018, Toronto)
Session Selection: Current Research in Comparative Sociology, Part 1 (RC20: Comparative Sociology)
Status: Accepted as a distributed paper [2017-11-30]

More »

Related articles

Gender Inequality and Family-Related Risks: From the Perspective of Law and Ideology (Contemporary Japan Speaker Series, King's College London) 2018-01-25


Date: 2018-01-25 19:00-20:30

Location: Paul Webley Wing, SOAS Alumni Lecture Theatre, London

Title: Gender inequality and family-related risks: from the perspective of law and ideology

Speaker: TANAKA Sigeto (Tohoku University)

Family laws and familial ideologies are crucial factors for gender equality that are often overlooked in gender-equality discourses. This lecture explores how marriage and childbirth are disadvantageous for women in Japan, and the institutionalization of this disadvantage in family laws and in hegemonic family ideology. The focus is on the adverse economic consequences that women experience for career interruptions and child rearing responsibilities, which become more visible after divorce. Results from the National Family Research of Japan (NFRJ) surveys from 1999 to 2009 highlight a great gender gap in post-divorce economic living standards. This is attributable to women’s interrupted careers and their responsibility to take care of children. Analyses of public discourses reveal that the disadvantages encountered by wives and mothers are deeply rooted in the history of law. The disadvantages have also been justified in ideological debates on social problems regarding family, work, welfare, and population issues. Although laws and policies have made some progress in reducing risks, the advancement has been so slow and limited that the underlying mechanism of gender inequality remains untouched.


Event page:

(Contemporary Japan Speaker Series, King's College London)

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現代日本論概論 (火2) 1/23 の授業について


大学からは、いまのところ (1/22 22:22) 休講等の情報は出ていません。

明日の授業は、課題を返却して講評することが主たる内容 です。欠席した場合は、後日研究室まで取りに来てもらえればOKです。ただし、24日から26日は出張で不在の予定ですので (雪の状況次第で出発できない可能性も高いですが)、29日以降にお願いします (事前に電子メール等で連絡してください)。

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